reviews

  • Brice Marden

    Dia Center for the Arts

    However different they seem, Brice Marden’s new “Cold Mountain,” 1988–91, and old Minimalist paintings are much the same in principle. There is the same stylized flatness (de rigueur in Modernist painting) and the same cautious use of color. (The “Cold Mountain” paintings are grayish, with ghostly touches of yellow and blue.) There is also the same repetitive, serial quality, as though the artist were addicted to and certifying a particular form. The difference—the use of calligraphic gesture—is not entirely new. It first appeared in Marden’s oeuvre, in somewhat more vigorous, aggressive form,

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  • Francesco Clemente

    Gagosian | 522 West 21st Street

    In his small new paintings and drawings, Francesco Clemente is preoccupied with body parts, particularly male and female genitals, but also the head and heart (the latter in the form of a clichéd sign). They are presented as ritual “oblations” (the term supplies the title for many of the works), that is, as sacrificial offerings. Bloodish brown dominates, but sky blue and shady black add atmosphere. In one work entitled Head, 1990, a head is presented on a white crescent of moon (a nod to St. John the Baptist?). Indeed, this image underscores the implicit violence of the works, though their cool

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  • Julião Sarmento

    Louver Gallery

    As significant as the polarity of abstraction and realism once was to Modernism, the great watershed with respect to post-Modern painting has been not so much a matter of form or style but of how meaning is generated: either it is self-reflexive, and thus contained by and concerned with the frame of painting itself, or else it refers outside of the work to comment on worldly experience and the human condition. In place for quite some time now, this black-and-white logic has gradually faded into innumerable shades of gray. While it is probably not Julião Sarmento’s primary intention to impress

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  • David Diao

    Postmasters

    When looking at the work of a live artist, one finds oneself mentally assessing the career thing in terms of potency and/or size. Is it big or medium, hot or stale? How active is their symbolic organ in the art world? Of course, we say, size isn’t important. Nevertheless, the evaluation mode kicks in, like some internally held homeostatic mechanism of curiosity slash invidia and inevitably swerves back upon oneself. In every show, the subtext of success, ambition, sour grapes, and/or idolatry lurks barely beneath the surface. I envy people who don’t always compare themselves with others, but I

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  • Annie Liebovitz

    International Center of Photography Museum (ICP)

    There is something wanly funny about entering a gallery full of Annie Liebovitz photographs—photographs I’ve already seen in Vanity Fair or in American Express ads—that oddly reaffirms that usually irrelevant distinction between art and photography. Throughout the ’80s, much high-profile “art” photography seemed transfixed by commerce; leavened with a healthy dose of hypocrisy, however, it at least pretended that this relationship was in some way specular or critical. Liebovitz’s photographs are simply commerce; as Ingrid Sischy has recently written in the introduction to the monograph Photographs:

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  • Nick Waplington

    Burden Gallery

    Nick Waplington’s vision has been likened to Breugel’s, and yet, while these photographs of two working-class families at home in their Nottingham council flats have the manic ebullience and macabre aimlessness of a Dutch peasant debauch, the people portrayed are quintessentially English, and the interiors bear all the grubby claustrophobic signs of bad British housekeeping. But Waplington isn’t appalled by the overflowing ashtrays, cheap furniture, kitsch-lined shelves, and low ceilings; indeed, it is his complete lack of irony or distance from the subjects that makes these pictures so incredibly

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  • Jim Shaw

    Metro Pictures

    Jim Shaw’s show entitled “Thrift Store Paintings” was an iconoclast’s Cuba Libre—a salon-style exhibition of some 200 works by backyard truants, Sunday painters, and assorted others walking the unpaved byways of art. Some of these pictures were bonkers (surreal, softcore, or surfer-psychedelic)—raw material, in short, for Shaw’s own technically polished, neo-adolescent paintings. The connection between these thrift store paintings and the consciously amateurish style of many early-’80s Metro Pictures artists—John Miller’s trashcan-school cityscapes, for example, or Walter Robinson’s most sincere

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  • Donald Roller Wilson

    Coe Kerr Gallery

    Picture a large and serious ape (Beverly) in a royal red dress befitting a queen, furred and jeweled crown on her head, one hand holding a wet and juicy green pepper stuffed with thoroughly foul matter—go on, use your imagination—the other clutching a worried bulldog in a white dress (Jane). In the background, a heavy fringed drapery, pulled aside like a curtain, allows the viewer to peek into a lush, dark forest. Across the top of the canvas in small neat print: “DONALD ROLLER WILSON • 1991 • BEVERLY • HOLDING JANE • WHO WOULDN’T TOUCH HER LUNCH • WHO LATER ESCAPED TO SANIBEL ISLAND WHERE SHE

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  • “Plastic Fantastic Lover (Object A)”

    Blumhelman Warehouse

    Framed by its vaguely evocative, post-psychedelic/Lacanian title, this convincingly installed group show whispers the promise of a manifesto never fully articulated. The work of 21 artists, “all of whom happen to be women,” packs the gallery—slouching in corners, sprawling on the floor, dangling from the ceiling. Formally many of the pieces attest to Eva Hesse’s (and, less directly, Andy Warhol’s) continuing influence, most bluntly apparent in Asta Gröting’s Untitled, 1991, an anthropomorphic coiled mass of silicon and wood shavings. Many of these artists borrow Hesse’s repudiation of glacial

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  • Peter Hopkins

    American Fine Arts

    Peter Hopkins’ recent show consists of six paintings, two photographs, two steel tables, and framed stats of typewritten formulas betraying the ingredients of the paintings. The formulas are based on Robert Smithson’s “Pulverizations” (although Smithson is not credited within the show), and Hopkins has substituted his own ingredients for the formulas’ variables. These include water from runoff pipes, varnish (blue), effluence, cherry Coca-Cola, sludge, Clorox, oil (motor/used), Ty-D-Bol, root beer, power-plant discharge, transmission fluids, and East River water.

    The paintings, called Covered

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  • Nicholas Pearson

    Condeso/Lawler Gallery

    Nicholas Pearson’s formally taut coiled aluminum sculptures mark the culmination of a highly self-conscious exploration of sculptural process. Coming of age in the ’70s at Bennington College, Pearson rejected the Greenbergian legacy in favor of a Minimalist insistence on the artwork’s status as an actual object in space and time. While his early work invoked architectural forms as a way of pointing to sculpture’s origins, by the mid-’80s he had unpacked his essentially closed monoliths, building large, open, steel armatures, containing fired aluminum and pigmented concrete objects, as a means

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  • Mia Westerlund Roosen

    Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.

    Although Mia Westerlund Roosen’s oeuvre constitutes a sustained challenge to the hegemony of Minimalism, it would be a mistake to situate her work simply in terms of post-Minimalist polemics. Employing resin-coated fabric, and then poured and modeled concrete, she has countered Minimalism’s industrial facture with the insistently handmade, the calculated with the accidental, and the geometric with the irregular. As her work has matured, however, it has become less a reaction to specific art-historical precursors, and more the result of an internal logic generated by the artist’s experiments with

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  • Mark Schlesinger

    Amy Lipton Gallery

    Like many abstract artists who survived the ’80s, Mark Schlesinger’s subsequent paintings have been seen infrequently and mostly in scattered group shows. His approach to abstraction challenges the prevailing taste for formal reprisals of earlier styles and for knowing but critical nods to the past. In this respect, his paintings counter the general feeling that abstraction is no longer viable.

    Schlesinger’s paintings not only vary in size and format and employ very different color combinations, but the surfaces range from rough, relatively thick (though clearly defined) areas to thin, smooth

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  • James O. Clark

    Max Protetch

    James O. Clark works in a manner that evokes the mad scientist, the visionary tinkerer, and the jazz soloist. At a moment when much sculpture consists of either accumulations of found or “store bought” objects or three-dimensional reprisals of other artists’ work, Clark’s often kinetic sculptures dispel the conformist notion that there is nothing left to do in the artistic arena but to criticize consumerism. Clark appears not to have been affected by much of what happened during the ’80s, either in art or critical discourse. His work neither partakes of this dominant esthetic nor reacts against

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  • Mark Robbins

    Clocktower Productions

    In this first installment of a trilogy of traveling exhibitions, architect Mark Robbins surveyed historic and contemporary New York, to create artifacts and environments that explore this city and the phenomenology of cities more generally. Rather than constructing literal or mimetic architectural spaces, Robbins made large-scale objects that could be climbed on and moved through in order to explore the psychological effect of participation in the city.

    Framing American Cities is a broad examination of three emblematic cities: New York, Columbus, Ohio, and San Francisco. Though based on the

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  • Alfred Leslie

    Flynn

    Viewing Alfred Leslie’s recent survey of colossal grisaille paintings from 1962–67 was like entering a time warp. Yet, though these works constitute an early record of Leslie’s transition from abstraction to figuration, they are more than just historically interesting examples of post–Abstract Expressionist figuration. Indeed, their physical presence and psychological muteness continue to make a domineering impression.

    Hung to suggest an arcade of caryatids, four women—three nude and one clothed—and Leslie’s own clothed self-portrait from 1966–67, towered over the viewers like giants. In all five

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  • Ay-O

    Emily Harvey Foundation

    Ever since the early ’60s, when he rejected both abstract and illusionistic art because he felt they were remote from actual human experience, Ay-O has focused on the human body. By utilizing the senses (touch, sight, smell, hearing, and taste) as his mediums, Ay-O, like many of his Fluxus peers (as well as the Minimal, Pop, and Conceptual artists), brings art back into the realm of everyday experience.

    Preceded by a small cardboard box mailed out as an announcement, Ay-O’s recent exhibition consisted of a series of colorful canvases entitled “Rainbow Hole,” and the inauguration of a permanent

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  • Gilbert & George

    Sonnabend Gallery

    Nothing could have better captured the spirit of more than two decades of Gilbert & George’s work than this recreation of The Singing Sculpture. The pair stood together on the plain table familiar from photographs, faces and hands gilded and painted, in their identical tweed suits, swaying and moving in slow motion circles to Flanagan and Allen’s depression-era song of homelessness, “Underneath the Arches,” just as they did in the same gallery space in September 1971. At the end of each run-through, they took turns stepping off the table to rewind the low-tech tape recorder perched on a pedestal,

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